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Ohio State looks to make a statement in the Big Ten this week

The Buckeyes travel to East Lansing to take on the Spartans, while Indiana and Wisconsin clash in Madison.

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 7-5 (2-3 B1G, 5-2 National)

Season ATS: 63-51-2 (19-15-2 B1G, 44-36 National)

The Big Ten schedule is a little light this week with two games being scrapped because of COVID-19, so to make up for it MC&J picked eight national games. If you missed those picks going up yesterday, you can find them here.

B1G games:

Nebraska v. Purdue (-1) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades — sorry Purdue. The Boilermakers have lost their last three games, all by seven points or less. Had Purdue been able to pull out two of those games, they’d be in the mix to head to the Big Ten Championship Game. Purdue did get some good news a few weeks ago when Rondale Moore returned to action, but that was quickly negated when defensive lineman George Karlaftis was forced out of action because of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Nebraska is a mess right now. The Cornhuskers can’t decide on a quarterback, and running back Dedrick Mills has missed the last couple games. While Luke McCaffrey does give them a bit of a ground threat, it is obvious what the Cornhuskers are trying to do when he enters the game. At least Adrian Martinez did create some good things through the air, completing 18 of his 20 passes.

I don’t have a ton of confidence here, but I do think Purdue is the right side in this game. Nebraska’s defense is brutal. If the Cornhuskers can let Illinois score 41 points, imagine what Moore and the rest of the Purdue offense can do. Even without Karlaftis, the Boilermakers get enough stops against a Nebraska offense that doesn’t inspire much confidence right now.

Purdue 33, Nebraska 24

Penn State (-11.5) v. Rutgers - 12:00 PM EST - FS1

So a win against Michigan fixes everything for Penn State? I’m not buying it. Who are the Nittany Lions to be favored by this much on the road against a Rutgers team that is playing their hearts out even though they are overmatched in every game? Aside from Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson, I’m not sure who is left on offense for the Nittany Lions.

We know that Rutgers is able to force turnovers. Just look at what the Scarlet Knights were able to do against Michigan State, where they forced seven turnovers. The Nittany Lions turned the football over eight times in the first five games before last week’s game against Michigan. Even though Rutgers might not have a lot offensively, they can stay close in this game by continuing to be active on defense.

I’m not going to go so far as to think Rutgers is going to win this game. What I will commit to is the Scarlet Knights giving Penn State a game on Saturday. Rutgers is playing with confidence while it feels like the Nittany Lions are just playing out the stretch. The talent advantage of Penn State allows them to win here, but they don’t pull away from Rutgers.

Penn State 27, Rutgers 20

No. 12 Indiana v. No. 16 Wisconsin (-14) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC

It has been a rough couple weeks for Indiana. First the Hoosiers lose to Ohio State, then they lose their starting quarterback. Michael Penix Jr. was lost for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury last week against Maryland, leaving Jack Tuttle to take the snaps behind center. Tuttle completed all five passes he attempted last week, but the Hoosiers didn’t need him to do much since their rushing attack rolled up 234 yards.

It has been a strange season for Wisconsin. The Badgers started off the year with an easy win over Illinois, then COVID-19 happened. Wisconsin saw their next two games canceled, then they split games against Michigan and Northwestern before last week’s contest with Minnesota was scrapped because of COVID issues with the Golden Gophers. Quarterback Graham Mertz was dreadful against Northwestern, throwing three interceptions in the 17-7 loss.

I know Indiana can compete with the top teams in the Big Ten, the problem is they need Penix on the field to do so. While Tuttle isn’t a bad replacement, I feel like Wisconsin is going to make him look bad. Indiana isn’t going to be able to run the football on the Badgers, which will put more pressure on Tuttle and could lead to turnovers. Wisconsin wears down an Indiana team that just got punched in the gut after losing Penix.

Wisconsin 38, Indiana 21

No. 19 Iowa (-13.5) v. Illinois - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

It feels like Iowa is always the hardest team in the Big Ten to get a read on. Heading into last week’s game, the Hawkeyes had won their previous three games by a combined score of 125-35. Then Iowa barely squeaks by Nebraska at home, beating the Cornhuskers 26-20. Quarterback Spencer Petras has gotten better as the year has gone on, but he still has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this year.

It had to be a gift and a curse that Illinois saw their game with Ohio State canceled last week. The Fighting Illini are riding a two-game winning streak, which would have likely come to an end last week against the Buckeyes. Last time we saw Illinois, they ran all over Nebraska, rushing for 285 yards in the 41-23 win. The Fighting Illini certainly won’t be able to reach that mark against the Iowa defense this week, though.

I think we’ll see Illinois hang around in this game. The Hawkeyes have Wisconsin on deck next week, so we could see Iowa looking ahead a bit. Illinois does just enough to keep the final score inside the number.

Iowa 31, Illinois 21

No. 4 Ohio State (-24) v. Michigan State - 12:00 PM EST - ABC

The 2020 season keeps getting stranger for Ohio State. The Buckeyes were forced to cancel last week’s game against Illinois because of COVID-19 issues. Ohio State could have played against Illinois, but the Buckeyes knew they had to get ahead of the virus if they had any shot at salvaging their final two games of the season.

The only person we know who will miss Saturday’s game against the Spartans is head coach Ryan Day, which will leave Larry Johnson as interim head coach. Even though Ohio State will be without Day, they have one of the best assistants in the country ready to step in and fill Day’s shoes. The players love Johnson, so it’s likely we see an inspired effort from the team, as Johnson becomes the first African-American to coach an Ohio State football game.

It’s hard to say that Justin Fields needs a bounce-back performance after setting a career high with 378 yards. What went wrong for Fields last time out was he was intercepted three times, which matches his total from his first 17 games at Ohio State. Luckily it didn’t cost the Buckeyes the game against Indiana, as Master Teague led an Ohio State rushing attack that ran for 307 yards.

Michigan State is coming off a huge win over Northwestern last week, beating the Wildcats 29-20 to hand Pat Fitzgerald’s team their first loss of the season. The Spartans surprisingly were able to run the football against Northwestern’s tough defense, finishing the game with 195 yards on the ground. Michigan State likely won’t have the same success on Saturday, as Ohio State is giving up less than 100 yards per game on the ground.

With Ohio State knowing they aren’t going to be challenged too much by the Spartans on the ground, the Buckeyes can concentrate a little more on tightening up in the secondary. Shaun Wade and the rest of the defensive backs can’t afford to get caught sleeping on Jalen Nailor, who is averaging over 23 yards per catch this year.

At some point we are going to need to see a huge win for Ohio State if they have any hope at impressing the selection committee and making the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes need that blowout win to be this weekend, since they don’t know what next week will hold with Michigan dealing with their own COVID-19 issues. Michigan State is just too sloppy and inconsistent on offense to be able to keep pace with the Buckeyes. Ohio State wins their eighth-straight in East Lansing, beating the Spartans in convincing fashion.

Ohio State 48, Michigan State 17